The Delta SkyMiles program has changed significantly in 2015; therefore, we’ve provided an update on several key program changes.
The program has become more complex and has developed an uncomfortable element of surprise due to ongoing adjustments. And a major devaluation of SkyMiles is expected starting June 1, 2016.
The biggest change to SkyMiles thus far was the implementation of Delta’s new revenue-based frequent flyer program, which we discuss in the Tip: Delta Changed the Way You Earn SkyMiles in 2015
We’ve listed a few of the more significant 2015 changes as of mid-July 2015.
On the plus side, Delta made these program adjustments:
- Earlier this year Delta finally introduced one-way awards, which was a big win for Medallion members; prior to this change you could only book roundtrip awards or pay the roundtrip award price for a one-way flight
- Delta began offering 7,500 mile (plus taxes and fees) one-way awards for shorter trips, which is expected to continue at least through February 2016
- Delta doubled award availability at the lowest levels when flights are booked 21 days prior to departure; we suggest you use the Delta Award Calendar and select “flexible days” when searching for a flight
- Early in 2015, Delta greatly improved their online award booking technology with increased partner award availability (22 partners currently), advanced search options to view availability in all cabins at once and the ability to view award availability on the calendar over 5 weeks
- Diamond and Platinum members can now use Regional or Global Upgrade Certificates for a Delta One seat on eligible transcontinental flights between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO)
- SkyMiles members now earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) and miles when purchasing Preferred Seats, Delta Comfort+ and paid upgrades to the Premium cabin
- Delta introduced a positive enhancement on July 21, 2015 making rebooking due to flight changes and cancellations easier on both delta.com and the Fly Delta app allowing customers to:
- Rebook a flight with an alternate origin, destination, date or time
- Confirm assigned seats when available or airport standby if not
- Feel secure Delta will recognize special service request from the original reservation and reroute bags to match the customer’s new itinerary
- Starting June 1, 2016, Delta is increasing the types of fares that are eligible for an upgrade
And, of course, Delta added a few additional restrictions and introduced what appears to be a major devaluation:
- In early June Delta made a policy change specifying that members can no longer mix the class of service (e.g. First, Business, Economy, etc.) for roundtrip award bookings; in Delta’s award FAQ this newly-imposed restriction reads: SkyMiles members do not have the ability to combine Main Cabin, First, Business and Delta One Class into one roundtrip Award Ticket; this change will make booking awards at the Saver Premium Class levels more difficult
- But here’s a good “work around” - book two one-way tickets if you desire a different class of service on each leg; the risk with this strategy is the potential for double fees if a change or cancellation becomes necessary - one for each one-way ticket and in some cases one-way award tickets will cost you more miles than booking a roundtrip award even in the same class of service, so we always suggest pricing both one-way and roundtrip award flights before booking
- Delta removed the award charts from their website earlier this year and many speculated the move was a precursor to pricing award flights by retail price rather than by distance - and they were right - for travel on or after June 1, 2016, the number of miles needed for Delta award flights will be based on destination, demand and other dynamics and award miles needed to upgrade under the Mileage Upgrade Award program will also increase
Delta is certainly keeping us all on our toes!
We've performed several spot checks of award flights prior to and after June 1, 2016, and we are seeing over a 100% increase (gasp!) in the miles required for award flights on several popular routes. We certainly hope this is an error and the increase won't be as drastic!
Either way, we suggest burning some miles on a fabulous trip prior to June 1, 2016, when Delta awards will certainly be more expensive and many members will no longer value the SkyMiles program for long haul award flights and upgrades. After that point you may only be able to find decent value in Delta's airline partner awards and Delta's new discounted (mostly short-haul) awards booked at least 21 days in advance.
We hope you now have a better understanding of the recent changes to the SkyMiles program. You can depend on TRVLVIP to keep you in the know!
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